What’s the point of having media fact-checkers when they themselves need to be fact-checked?

PolitiFact awarded a “mostly false” rating this week to former U.S. Air Force fighter pilot Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., for a campaign ad that says of her Senate opponent, “While we were in harm’s way in uniform, [Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.] was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service."

The really outrageous thing here isn’t that what McSally said is true. The outrageous thing is that PolitiFact awarded the Republican congresswoman a “mostly false” rating, despite also recognizing that what she said is true.

The fact-checking group tweeted this week that McSally said Sinema “protested troops in a pink tutu. We looked into that claim and rated it Mostly False."

PolitiFact explained its ruling:

McSally in a campaign ad said, "While we were in harm’s way in uniform, Kyrsten Sinema was protesting us in a pink tutu and denigrating our service."

McSally retired from the Air Force in 2010 after 26 years of military service. After 9/11, Sinema led protests against the war in Iraq. At a 2003 rally called "No War! A Celebration of Life and Creativity," Sinema wore a pink tutu. Media reports of the rallies in 2002 and 2003 quote Sinema as opposing the war and the Bush administration’s policy, but we found no evidence of her disparaging troops.

McSally’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

The PolitiFact article also includes this paragraph:

Sinema was a law student at the time who participated in a series of vigils and anti-war protests in Arizona. In at least one of those instances, she wore what looks like a pink tutu. The 2003 event coincided with Women’s International Day, included live music and dancing, and other attendees also wore pink outfits. Sinema described the event as "an expression of creativity and of self."

Yes, the “mostly false” rating is based entirely on PolitiFact trying to thread the needle by asking what "disparaging" really means. This is not, however, a clear factual question. "Disparage," much like "offend," is a term involving some subjective interpretation, no matter which side you're coming from.

The fact-checker rests its case on saying it couldn't find a specific example of Sinema saying anything disparaging at any of the anti-war rallies she participated in and helped organize. But for context, here’s a copy of a flyer distributed by one of the anti-war groups headed by Sinema. The flyer, which depicts members of the U.S. military as skeletal angels of death or something (I’m not really sure what the artist is going for), reads “You can help us push back U.S. terror in Iraq and the Middle East":


Also, here’s the picture of Sinema in an honest-to-God pink tutu at an anti-war rally, in case you were wondering about that part:

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PolitiFact went with “mostly false” anyway.

If you can believe it, the fact-checker circled the wagons later after it received well-deserved pushback.

“The Senate Leadership Fund and Defend Arizona contacted us after publication to point out that CNN published a story on Sept. 15 saying that a group led by Sinema in the early 2000s distributed anti-war flyers, including one that depicted a soldier as a skeleton,” PolitiFact said in its defense.

It added, “Sinema’s campaign told CNN, however, that Sinema did not approve or design the flyers. The flyers were not used in McSally's ad claiming that Sinema denigrated troops. McSally's campaign did not send PolitiFact the flyers — or any other material — as evidence for the claim. McSally's ad focused on Sinema wearing a tutu. Contemporaneous reporting of the event in which Sinema wore a tutu did not say that Sinema denigrated troops. Given that the flyer is not evidence that Sinema denigrated troops herself, our rating remains the same.”

I've written before about the uselessness of "mostly false" and "half true" fact-check ratings, but this is beyond ridiculous. With fact-checkers like this, who needs political spin doctors?